Back in February 2020, I saw a tweet by ThePitCrewOnline looking to take on contributors. At that point, I had just been writing aimlessly on my personal blog, since us narcissists always need an outlet of announcing when they have an opinion, and Twitter only gives us a small amount of space to express it.
I remember very vividly, I was waiting to get my hair done by my friend and had been for some food beforehand. I saw that tweet on my phone and was like “Heck, why not? I doubt they’d just take anyone on, I probably don’t have a hope in hell!”. Well, I was wrong. I spoke with the crew chief himself, Simon Tassie, and he asked to see some of my work and I forwarded him an article about Igor Fraga, the Gran Turismo champion who raced in Formula 3.
Before I knew it, I was in! I was immediately added to the group chats and introduced to everyone, I was welcomed in by all the immensely lovely people who were part of the Pit Crew and I got to work. I wrote a piece about Igor Fraga again, and wrote way more than could ever be digested.
Poor Jenny – who was tasked with finalising my article and preparing it for release. She likely pulled her hair out when telling me to part with a lot of information or nobody would read all the words I had written. We eventually settled on making it a two parter. I can only apologise for having to deal with me being wedged into the ground like an ancient tree, Jenny!
If by saying Igor Fraga and referencing him as a Gran Turismo champion wasn’t enough of an indicator, I am very into virtual racing. I’ve written many articles on Esports for ThePitCrewOnline and wrote enthusiastically about it. I was keen to share my passion for it, which is amazingly timed considering what was happening around the time I joined.
The motorsport world was rocked to a standstill by the COVID-19 pandemic, race after race cancelled with racing on track not returning until mid-summer.
The weekend of what would have been the Australian Grand Prix, sim racing came to the rescue with many real world pros and sim racers entered into two incredible events. The All-Star Esports Battle by The Race saw Max Verstappen enter, and the Not The Aus GP by Veloce Esports had Lando Norris compete and stream it to Twitch, being one of the most viewed concurrently watched broadcasts on the site at the time.
The sim racing boom had begun, and with the success of those events, we saw many Esports racing events take place. You had not only independent organisations starting up their own championships and events but also pre-existing motorsport series including but not limited to F1, MotoGP, IndyCar and Formula E all had their own Esports racing throughout that time.
My point is, there was no better time for an Esports fan to join a motorsport site to share enthusiasm for this amazing way to go racing. The peak of it all was the Le Mans 24 Virtual, of which I was very proud to live-tweet about it over the PitCrew account, tweeting two stints one late Saturday night and then the final three hours of the race.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a real world racing fan of course and I have written about things beyond Esports. Whether it be my opinion that that the Finnish fans deserve an F1 Grand Prix at the KymiRing where MotoGP will eventually race or the piece I wrote about drivers who are disabled for International Day of People with Disabilities such as Nathalie McGloin and Caleb MacDuff.
The piece of which I’m most proud is the article discussing Max Verstappen’s problematic comments in the wake of his clash with Lance Stroll in practice for last year’s Portuguese Grand Prix. It got an immense reaction but it was and is a conversation that had to be had.
I have so much to be grateful for, Pit Crew have given me a platform to allow me to express my passion for racing both real and virtual, and afforded me opportunities that I could never have gotten otherwise. I’ve made contacts in the industry and gained credibility and notoriety, and I am forever indebted to my crewmates.
The reason I’m saying this is because this is my farewell piece. I haven’t posted since March because I’ve been busy with uni work but even before I finished, I applied off to work for a sim racing reporting website called OverTake GG, and I’m delighted to say that application was successful. I am immensely privileged to be in the position I am, and I cannot thank Pit Crew enough for it.
The note I want to end on is that if you are wanting to build your portfolio in the hopes of getting gainful employment in the racing reporting industry, or just to wax lyrical with a bunch of incredibly lovely, likeminded people, the Pit Crew is the place for you!
I cannot recommend becoming a crewmate enough. This site will allow you to write about whatever you like (as long as it’s relevant of course) in your own time, and allow you to build a portfolio of work to then send off to other publications to make the next step into full-time employment.
You don’t have to join this site just in the hopes of gaining employment. You come here if racing is something that you are enthusiastic about and want to discuss it.
When Murray Walker passed away recently, all of us wrote about what he meant to all of us and I said that he blazed a trail. It was he who said “Those who can will do, and those who can’t will talk about it” and every single last one of us can have something to say about anything, we should celebrate it.
If anyone had told me back in early 2020 that I’d find my dream job as a result of contributing to Pit Crew and making contacts with so many people within this world, I’d have found it immensely difficult to believe. I cannot express enough just how much gratitude I have for ThePitCrewOnline. Thank you Pit Crew.
To my crewmates and to all readers here, I’ll see you out on track.
When Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crossed the line at Monza back in 2019 to join the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso as first-time winners for the Scuderia in front of the Tifosi, I was absolutely elated for him. However the following year came and Ferrari were heavily hampered by amendments to rules regarding the engine. They plummeted from second in the constructors’ championship in 2019 with three wins, to sixth in 2020 with a best of a second place finish courtesy of Leclerc at the season opener in Austria.
After spending a lot of time prior to the delayed 2020 opener on the F1 game with Leclerc, Lando Norris was asked during the season if he felt sorry for the Monegasque and he answered that he did not. On the surface, it might seem as if Lando is being very callous in his response but when you actually take the time to understand what he’s saying, it does make sense.
Norris pointed out that Leclerc had been in a position to win races in 2019, winning two and coming close to winning many more. You have to consider yourself very fortunate to find yourself in such a position; not every driver is able to be in racing-winning machinery and as a wiser person than me once said, you have to savour the good days because they don’t always last.
The reason I bring this up is because Lando repeated this comment in relation to his new teammate at McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie found himself in a race-winning position many times during his tenure at Red Bull between 2014 and 2018, before making a move to Renault and now McLaren for this season.
Ricciardo hasn’t had the smoothest of starts to his time with the Woking-based outfit, so far only out-racing Norris in the most recent race at Spain, with Lando having moved over for him, repaying the favour that Daniel did for him at Imola which resulted in the Brit scoring a podium finish.
When Norris was asked about his teammate’s struggles, he was again brutally honest. He pointed out that adapting to a new car and overcoming these issues are part and parcel of this cutthroat business of Formula One. He also said that he has no doubt that Daniel will get the hang of it eventually.
But even then, success is not guaranteed or handed to you on a plate. Even if you’re Sebastian Vettel, who is the only non-Alfa Romeo, Williams or Haas driver to have failed to score a point so far this year, you can’t use the excuse “But he’s a four-time champion”.
When the announcement of Ricciardo and Norris becoming teammates at McLaren happened, a lot of people began making mountains out of molehills claiming Lando was scared, that there’s tension between them and that they’ll be glad when Ricciardo ends Lando’s career.
Who needs Netflix to do it for Drive To Survive when we already are creating this needless and petulant drama?
But my point is, Lando clearly isn’t saying any of this with malice. There may come a point when Lando is in a position where he is winning races and contending for championships; I would hope that is soon. But if after that, things aren’t going his way, you shouldn’t pity him. That’s the way life is when you’re in a sport that is as competitive as Formula One.
People are reading way too much into his comments believing he’s immensely arrogant, rude and doesn’t even have the results to justify his demeanor. First of all, even if you’re as successful as Lewis Hamilton, it still doesn’t mean you get to treat people terribly. But that’s besides the point.
Primarily though, Norris is mature enough to understand that success isn’t guaranteed and you need to overcome your difficulties in your own way. He’s said some regrettable stuff and has acknowledged that, impressing many of us with how self-aware he is.
In the end, people will create conflict where there is none and the people who are successful will have earned it, in spite of what they’ve achieved before. Think of it this way: Lando Norris was the best placed driver outside of Mercedes and Red Bull in the first three races, with that streak broken in Spain. Do we feel sorry for him for that? No.
There are plenty of people who said he underperformed last year. Whether you agree with that or not, that’s up to you. I don’t believe so personally, finishing only eight points behind his vastly more experienced teammate Carlos Sainz, and winning the intra-team qualifying battle in both seasons together. Yes there will have been some elements skewing those numbers but that’s part and parcel of life.
But do we feel sorry for him that he didn’t get more points or wasn’t more successful? No. You just have to take what comes at you in this sport and hope brighter days are only ahead, and even if not, there’s nothing you can do about it.
It’s not like Lando is smugly reveling in the misfortunes of others. He’ll face highs and lows like many of the drivers; the highs will have come from hard work and the lows will require effort to be overcome. We can all learn a thing or two from Norris’ approach – of course not everything can be overcome with hard work but the last thing any of us needs is to be wallowing in pity.
In the cases of the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc, I can see things are definitely improving already and it’s very likely they will be contending for regular podiums throughout the season. So don’t read into Lando’s comments and assume he’s saying it with hostility. It’s ridiculous.
Motorsport is facing a challenge in the years to come to both survive and thrive. It is no secret that racing has a big carbon footprint and we are slowly but inevitably going to have to adapt or die – and it’s safe to say that none of us want the latter.
We are seeing F1 begin its transition to biofuels and many alternative energy methods are being tested like electric cars either powered by batteries or fuel-cells. We won’t be short of energy methods and many series will be looking to provide a platform to allow development of these cars for many of our road cars in the future.
Not long ago, I was humbled when I was invited to do a one-on-one Zoom call with a man named Mike Rockenfeller. If that name sounds familiar to a lot of you, that’s because along with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, he won the 24 hours of Le Mans in 2010. He is also the 2013 DTM champion.
Rocky and I got in touch because I had picked up on a project he had been working on, as he was one of the founding partners of the Racing Concept Cars Organisation which runs the World eX championship. This is a virtual racing series where one real-world professional racing driver teams up with one sim racer and compete in short, quickfire, entertaining races.
In my call with Rocky, he spoke at length about how he hopes to develop the series to potentially serve as a platform to allow manufacturers to test their electric motors on simulation software in the not-too-distant future. After all, eX stands for electric experimental.
Now don’t assume for a second that a virtual racing series just because it is not technically using an actual car, can’t help develop real life cars. In fact, it’s safe to say that manufacturers are using simulators to test their concepts all the time and virtual racing will only serve as a further means and cost-saving effective method to put those theories into practice before putting it on the road.
In their early days of venturing into virtual racing, RCCO ran a few lower profile events and exhibition championships that would plant the seeds of what would become World eX. They competed on Gran Turismo Sport using the Audi e-Tron Vision Gran Turismo, which was an experimental concept car developed by Audi in collaboration with Polyphony Digital who make the Gran Turismo games.
The e-Tron VGT has since been developed in real life and is the first fully functioning concept car that can drive on roads, and also the first which matches the virtual and “on-paper” statistics with the real specifications. It has since gone on to be used for taxi rides in support of the 2018 Berlin and Rome ePrix, and plans suggest it may go on to participate in the 24 hours of Nürburgring, as well as the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
All this from a car that was developed through a video game! It further proves that the virtual world is revolutionising the way we race and develop not only drivers but cars as well. That’s exactly what RCCO World eX aims to be, and right now for their first full season as a top level championship, they have an immense baseline with an incredible car called the eX ZERO.
Why is it incredible? Let’s give you some performance figures. The car that the teams will use in its fully-fledged inaugural season puts out 1,000 horsepower transferring through all its wheels from its two electric motors and two-speed gearbox. It has a perfect 1:1 power-to-weight ratio as a result of weighing only 1,000 kilograms despite its 100 kilowatt/hour battery.
As a result of all these numbers, the eX ZERO can go from a standstill to 62mph/100kph in a mere 2.3 seconds, to 124mph/200kph in 4.6 seconds and to 186mph/300kph in 9.5 seconds. Plus in its lowest drag configuration it can go on to a mind-bending maximum speed of 239mph/384kph.
The eX ZERO was developed in partnership with Studio 397 who are the creators of rFactor 2, the simulation software that World eX uses to stage its races. When developing the car it was imperative that it was to behave in a way that was true to life, despite the fact it only exists in the virtual world.
Throughout its development, Rocky wanted the car to behave in such a way that it would really test the drivers on the limit, so the car doesn’t stick to the circuit by any means and is a tricky little thing to drive. He also is well aware that battery powered electric cars without heavy braking zones to allow a lot of regeneration (like in Formula E) will not last for a long race distance, so they based the format of eX around this fact.
“With today’s technology and the amount of power we are deploying, we are limited to up to 15 minutes of flat-out racing,” says Rockenfeller. “This fits our unique race format with head-to-head battles and many short races. It would be easy to make the power capacity infinite for the virtual car, but that’s not what we want. Battery technology is developing rapidly and we will update the car with any new technology, which will be available in the near future. We are talking to potential partners from the automotive industry that can use our microcosm to promote their progress in the real world. And we are looking forward to seeing car manufacturers developing their own eX cars for our platform.”
The World eX will run a unique format in all of its events. It starts out with 22 cars doing 1v1 duels over a single lap. There will be 11 races, with five seeing pro drivers going against each other, another five with the sim drivers and then one race is between the two wildcard entries who qualified through rFactor 2. The winners of each duel automatically progress to the quarter finals, with one slot remaining for the winner of the two-lap repechage that consists of all the drivers who lost their duel race.
The quarter-finals see six cars compete in two races again across two laps, with the pro drivers and wildcard entrant forming group one and the sim racers along with the repechage winner forming the second group. The top four in each group progress to the semi-finals which consist of two races over three laps, with the top three in both races progressing to the four lap final.
After the final is the super final which is a single one-lap shootout between the top two finishers of the final. Whoever comes out on top is the official winner of the eX Prix and will automatically earn an invitation to the final round where that winner will be crowned World eX champion.
RCCO aim to allow manufacturers to develop their own cars for World eX in the not-too-distant future, not only for battery powered electric vehicles but also fuel-cell electric vehicles. I would like to think World eX could potentially lead to battery powered EVs to someday eventually be able to be charged to 100% in 30 seconds and have no wear on the battery as a result. The possibilities are absolutely endless.
However for 2021 at least, all the teams use the eX ZERO which is affectionately referred to as the ‘Sustainable Beast’, and here are some of the names you can expect to see participating in their first season.
There are nine officially confirmed teams for the first season with vacant slots for guest entries plus two drivers who qualify through the game. There is a mix of established sim racing teams, new faces on the scene and even some real world heavyweights.
First there’s Absolute Racing which is real-world racing team competing across Asia in the likes of the Asian Le Mans Series, F3 Asia and the Intercontinental GT Challenge. They have signed reigning EuroFormula Open champion and former Renault Academy and FIA F3 driver Ye Yifei.
He will be partnered with a sim driver called Michi Hoyer, who has competed in the likes of the Le Mans 24 Virtual and The Race All-Star Series. Ye will not participate in the first round however and instead his place will be taken by former Audi LMS Cup champion Alessio Picariello.
BS+COMPETITION will have 2019 W Series runner-up and 2020 W Series Esports League champion Beitske Visser onboard as the sole full-time woman competing. Joining her will be Esports racer Alen Terzic who also competed in the likes of The Race All-Star Series and the Le Mans 24 Virtual.
Next up is Biela Racing, founded by five-time Le Mans winner and multiple national touring car champion Frank Biela who will not only run the team but also compete. His Esports teammate will be a talented German named Luca Kita.
NIANCO Esports is a team founded by Nico Müller who will be juggling his commitments in both Formula E for Dragon and DTM for Team Rosberg alongside World eX. He has selected another Swiss racer by the name of Thomas Schmid to be his teammate.
Patrick Long Esports is next up, founded by the American long-time Porsche factory driver whose name the team bares. A two-time class-winner at Le Mans, his lineup will consist of 2014 Indy Lights champion and 2015 IndyCar rookie of the year Gabby Chaves with the sim racing talent of Liam de Waal.
Undoubtedly the highest profile entry comes from R8G E-Sports Team, the sim racing team of former Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean. He will be competing as the pro driver with Risto Kappet as his team mate, one of the most accomplished sim racers in its short history.
Next we have TK9 E-SPEED, founded by the driver with the most Le Mans 24 hours wins of all time: Tom Kristensen. His team’s entry will feature former touring car champion Lasse Sørensen and Esports racer Andreas Jochimsen.
In its short lifespan, F1 team Williams’ Esports division has committed to and found immense success in a plethora of sim racing championships, and RCCO World eX will be no exception! They will have its real world racing representative be ex-Formula E driver Tom Dillmann, while their sim racer will be former Haas F1 Esports driver Martin Štefanko.
Finally for the last full time entry is Esports Team WRT which has made its success in the real world in the likes of World Endurance Championship, GT World Challenge Europe and formerly in DTM. They’ll be fielding reigning GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup champion Dries Vanthoor together with Fabrice Cornelis. The two teamed up with WRT in the Le Mans 24 Virtual, where they finished seventh.
Also throughout the season, many big motorsport names will be coming in to race as guest drivers. One of the first confirmed is reigning Formula E champion António Félix da Costa, who will be competing in the first round for temporary team NR eSports alongside sim racer Michael Niemas. Later on in the season, a tenth permanent entry will be added.
There will also be regional eX series that will be starting in the second half of 2021, which will be for drivers based in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. Each region will host their own races with the winners having the chance to qualify for the World Championship events as wildcard drivers, and will create additional national eX series spreading the series all around the world.
Now for the schedule! All the races will take place on Thursdays, with the first being this upcoming Thursday 11th March.
March 11: eX Prix of Great Britain – Silverstone
April 1: eX Prix of the United States – Sebring
April 29: eX Prix of Malaysia – Sepang
May 27: eX Prix of the Netherlands – Maastricht (fictional circuit)
June 24: eX Prix of Brazil – Interlagos
July 29: eX Prix of Portugal – Estoril
August 26: eX Prix of Belgium – Spa-Francorchamps
September 30: TBC (will be confirmed in due course)
October 29: eX Prix of Monaco – Monte Carlo
November 25: AvD eX Prix of Germany – Nürburgring
Who knows what this series could become in the next few years. They’ve had a meteoric rise from just playing Gran Turismo Sport with a few mates, to a fully fledged Esports series that will serve as a testbed for manufacturers in years to come.
Further breaking down the barriers between the real and virtual worlds of motorsport, I’d love to see eX become a series in the real-world too. Just like what Extreme E is doing, it should show a new means to transport the cars to new locations and show that racing can be both entertaining and sustainable. For now at least, the racing will remain in the virtual world but it won’t lose any entertainment or relevance to this ever-evolving world of motorsport.
So how can you watch? Tune in to Motorsport TV’s website to find a dedicated channel for the RCCO World eX that not only includes the live broadcast but also behind the scenes insight and a monthly dedicated show. You can also watch the events broadcast from their Twitch channel @rccoworldex. Formula E pit lane reporter Nicki Shields will host the broadcasts.
To whet your appetite for Thursday’s eX Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone, watch this duel between Mike Rockenfeller and Romain Grosjean as they attempt to tame the ‘Sustainable Beast’ around the Nürburgring. If you have rFactor 2, you can download the eX ZERO via the Steam Network so you can drive it and witness its incredible speed for yourself.
Update – 23/01/2021: Hello again! It’s Luca. I left ThePitCrewOnline in the middle of 2021 when I was offered a role with the driving games and esports racing website, and in that time, a lot has happened.
Back in March 2021, I was watching the final round of the VCO ProSIM Series Season 1, and at the end there was an advertisement for an upcoming event by VCO, and it was the Esports Racing World Cup. The best teams in all of sim racing doing battle on three separate simulation titles, those being iRacing, rFactor 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione from 28-30 January 2022.
Then a year-round set of tournaments will take place, that being the Esports Racing League with a structure that is similar to that of more traditional forms of esports like Rocket League and Call of Duty. All of this happening as a result of the many ideas I expressed here, and CEO of VCO Florian Haasper has accredited me with helping them come up with.
It just goes to show that by networking with all the right people and forging connections, you can make things happen. Tune in to VCO’s YouTube and Twitch channels on all three days to see the definitive sim racing event take place!
During the beginning portion of this year, we have been treated to some incredible racing in the virtual world. It provided an unprecedented opportunity to showcase the high level of ability from a lot of drivers who do compete in sim racing, as well as the high quality of racing you can witness at the fraction of the cost of the real thing.
We had countless examples of high profile races ranging from sanctioned events by existing series including the likes of Formula 1, MotoGP, Formula E and IndyCar, to completely new originals such as the very popular All-Star Series by The Race.
However Esports racing events are not an entirely new creation, as we have had plenty of championships that existed before this sim racing boom. Such examples include F1 Esports, the FIA-certified Gran Turismo Championships, and iRacing host many sanctioned sim racing series such as the Porsche Esports SuperCup and the eNASCAR iRacing Series. Then we also have the likes of Formula Sim Racing, the Grand Prix Virtual World Championship, league racing championships such as Apex Online Racing and Online Racing League, you get the idea.
So it’s not as if virtual racing fans are starved of action, if anything we are spoilt for choice! But with the quantity of races and championships that there is on offer, there’s a danger perhaps of a lack of prestige with any one particular championship. Do bear with me on this.
When I started to become interested in video game racing, I like many of you were blown away by the accessibility and thus seeing the amount of drivers who were taking to it in order to make advances in their racing career. Subsequently a lot of teams have popped up to compete and signed a lot of drivers to compete in various championships for them, and it just solidified the brilliance of the Esports racing.
So what is it that really sets apart virtual racing from real racing?
It of course goes without saying that real racing has the physical element which virtual racing could never really have. However because in the virtual world, cars and tracks can be picked from the touch of button, the advantage of that is not having to pay huge amounts of money to ship cars onto a cargo plane to a new track. Therefore whilst the physical factor isn’t a huge thing in Esports, there can be a mental factor.
In the week leading up to last weekend’s 24 hours of Le Mans, the Le Mans Esports Series had their Super Final which was stretched across a few days. In that, teams and drivers race multiple different eras of Le Mans-style cars on a variety of circuits, which is brilliant of course but I think it was their first season last year which really made me realise what was so brilliant about the format.
Of course this year, everything is being done remotely and thus there are some limitations. But in 2019 when the Le Mans Esports Series had its first Super Final and all the drivers were actually present at the Le Mans circuit for the event, they had about nine races varying from two to three hours long, in a variety of cars on a multitude of circuits, and it all took place within a 24 hour period.
They could just as well have had one race on the Circuit de la Sarthe and driven for 24 hours like the real thing but they didn’t. They took advantage of the fact that they could go to all these circuits and compete in all these vastly different cars, and really test the mental strength of these drivers, showing who can quickly adapt and prove their versatility in a short space of time.
What I’m saying is, whilst you could have a sim racing championship that does one circuit at a time with one type of car throughout the season and it would be perfectly legitimate, there are advantages presented by being able to quickly move to another type of car and track combination. That’s why I want to present an example that demonstrated this concept brilliantly.
On the weekend of July 26th, I watched the Cup of Nations, an event that took place on iRacing and hosted by the Virtual Competition Organisation in collaboration with RaceSpotTV and Williams Esports. You can guess by the name that it was a competition held between nations, and you’d be correct in assuming that.
It was won in the end by Team Germany who had the driver with the highest iRacing driver rating in the world Maximilian Benecke, as one of their participants. However as appealing the concept of pitting nations against each other is (demonstrated by the likes of the FIA Motorsport Games and A1GP), it wasn’t that which caught my attention.
No, it was the fact that the car and track combinations were so heavily varied. You had the likes of Aussie Supercars, GT cars, Rallycross cars, single seaters and the many different types of race tracks such as ovals, dirt tracks and road courses. The people taking part only knew of the car and track combinations very little time in advance, so it eliminated the element of people getting more practice or even enough of it with a particular car and track combo.
Every driver that took part had to prove their worth in so many heavily contrasting environments. When I said earlier that the virtual racing world is currently lacking that one prestigious championship in which all the major aspiring and established sim racing drivers and the many Esports teams would want to compete in and win, I think this would be it.
I firmly believe that the VCO have showcased a diamond in a huge box already full of very valuable jewels. With some other elements borrowed from many other high profile Esports championships and if refined to iron out some rough edges, this concept would be – and I don’t mince my words here – the quintessential sim racing championship.
Picture if you will, the many big names from the real and virtual world both in regards to drivers and teams, looking to win the biggest prize in Esports racing, in the most prestigious championship for sim racers all over the world.
Open to anyone all over the world, teams entering with pre-selected drivers in a Pro driver category or players who qualify through iRacing and enter into an Am category. Either competing remotely in eight events across the year to match up to a total at the end, or entering into regional championships so no one region is left having to drive at 3am all the time. I would leave that up to the experts to decide which format works best.
Either way, it would end at the SimRacing Expo which takes place at the Nürburgring every year to crown the champions.
As far as a name goes, I’m divided between a few. There are the likes of, Sim Racing World Championship, Virtual Racing World Championship, eRacing/E-Racing World Championship.
In any case, I firmly believe that this championship would be incredible. It would not be a long shot to say that whoever would win this would be the world’s best sim racing driver or team, and we the viewers would also be major winners as we can see the peak of ability in all of sim racing.
The 2020 F1 Esports Series is almost upon us, and with it the official confirmation of who will race for all ten of the teams. Here’s your guide to who’ll be competing and what’s new ahead of the fourth F1 Esports season.
While drivers will be competing for individual honours, the teams will all be competing for a bigger share of the now $750,000 prize pool. Each team will consist of three drivers who will all take varying parts in the twelve race season between October and December.
In the annual F1 Esports Pro Draft which took place on August 27th, each of the ten teams must pick at least one driver who had qualified through the game, and the teams went in reverse championship order from the previous season.
Haas: Floris Wijers (NED), Cedric Thomé (GER) and Simon Weigang (GER)
Haas have finished second-to-last and last in their first two seasons of competing, and will want to change that in 2020. Floris Wijers was their 2019 Pro Draft pick and Cedric Thomé raced last season for Renault which resulted in a victory on the Canadian GP circuit.
Simon Weigang is their Pro Draft pick for this year, he also raced last season for Renault. Wijers impressed in the first Pro Exhibition race earlier this year, and the two former Renault drivers are undoubtedly quick. Haas will want to lift themselves from the tail end of the virtual grid and finally now may be the time they do.
AlphaTauri: Joni Törmälä (FIN), Patrik Holzmann (GER) and Manuel Biancolilla (ITA)
After previously finishing runner-up in the team’s championship to Mercedes in 2018 primarily thanks to the efforts of Frederik Rasmussen, the cool-headed Dane’s move to Red Bull meant that the then-named Toro Rosso team didn’t fair brilliantly. They however have stuck to their guns with Patrik Holzmann and redrafting Manuel Biancolilla, and have also inherited Joni Törmälä from Red Bull.
Törmälä was part of the Red Bull team’s championship winning effort last season so he will be the one to watch in their B-Team now as he will be undoubtedly the one leading the charge for AlphaTauri. Whilst it may be seen as a demotion, they are all in equal cars so he will have every opportunity to prove Red Bull wrong for not having him in their main team.
After dominating in 2018, two-time champion Brendon Leigh failed to win a race and Mercedes struggled after losing Dani Bereznay to Alfa Romeo. This seemed to coincide also with Leigh making the transition to real-life racing in the BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 championship, where he finished fourth in his first race. However he proved in the Pro Exhibition race on the Chinese GP circuit that he’s not lost any commitment to Esports, and this season he has some very strong teammates.
Former McLaren driver Bono Huis joined Mercedes this year after finishing a respectable 7th in last year’s F1 Esports season. Joining them is the highly-rated Bardia Boroumand who starred in his stint in the Pro Exhibition races for Alfa Romeo, notably when he took pole for the race in support of the Virtual Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes have a strong bunch of drivers to help them get back to winning ways.
BWT Racing Point: Lucas Blakeley (GBR), Daniele Haddad (ITA) and Shanaka Clay (GBR)
After being drafted in 2019, Scottish driver Lucas Blakeley’s star power has only risen as he went from doing four races last year where he got a best of second at Suzuka, to being able to hold off the reigning champion David Tonizza in the Monaco Pro Exhibition race for an incredible win. Blakeley and Racing Point scored the most points for driver and team across all those races and he could upset the established order this season.
Alongside Blakeley is the reliable Daniele Haddad (who you’ll recognise as being the voice in Jimmy Broadbent’s ears during the Virtual Grand Prix races) and also Shanaka Clay, who really impressed when he won the Canada Pro Exhibition race in very tricky conditions. Clay being a former karting rival of Lando Norris and George Russell, and being only his second race when he won, will have some spring in his step come the start of the season.
McLaren Shadow: James Baldwin (GBR), Dani Moreno (ESP) and Matthias Cologon (FRA)
With an all-new line-up, McLaren Shadow will be putting their faith in a relatively inexperienced set of drivers. First up is World’s Fastest Gamer James Baldwin, who raced a few times for Alfa Romeo in the Pro Exhibition races. He will be doubling up his efforts in the F1 Esports Series with competing in the British GT for Jenson Button’s team, of which he’s already won a race, taken a few pole positions and is in contention for the championship.
Baldwin’s teammates are relatively unknown quantities. Moreno impressed in some Play-Off qualification races, and Cologon was in the Pro Draft in 2019 though he wasn’t picked, but McLaren see something beyond their inexperience in the F1 Esports Series. So while it may be a gamble, it could very well pay off.
Williams: Alvaro Carreton (ESP), Salih Saltunç (GBR) and Michael Romanidis (GRC)
Having been with Williams since the beginning, Alvaro Carreton has improved massively over the years to the point that he could challenge for the odd win or two so Williams were not wanting to let him go that easily. Michael Romanidis started racing for Williams this year in the Pro Exhibition races and also competed for them in the Le Mans 24 Virtual.
Saltunç joins from Alfa Romeo where was overshadowed by Dani Bereznay and will be looking to remind people why he was the only driver in 2018 other than Bereznay and Rasmussen to win a race over the dominant Brendon Leigh. A very highly rated driver, maybe a move to Williams was exactly what he needs.
Renault Vitality: Nicolas Longuet (FRA), Fabrizio Donoso Delgado (CHL) and Caspar Jansen (NED)
Having lost their star Jarno Opmeer, Renault quickly snapped up the services of former Red Bull driver Nicolas Longuet who only raced one time last season and got a podium finish out of it. He’s also joined by 2017 runner-up Fabrizio Donoso Delgado who sat out 2019 and will be hoping to remind everyone why he was the one who came close to denying Brendon Leigh the inaugural championship.
Renault’s final pick is Caspar Jansen, who has been performing very well in league racing and will undoubtedly benefit from Donoso’s experience to get him performing well in the Esports series too. A varied but balanced line-up at Renault that they think will help them hold onto or even improve on fourth in last year’s team championship standings.
Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen: Dani Bereznay (HUN), Jarno Opmeer (NED) and Dominik Hofmann (GER)
When it was announced in the run-up to the Virtual Azerbaijan Grand Prix that Opmeer had signed for Alfa Romeo, I immediately said that Alfa would be the favourite for the team championship and I stand by that. Opmeer was fourth and Bereznay third in last year’s F1 Esports series and are both utter machines, I was concerned that whoever would be Alfa’s Pro Draft pick may get the short end of the stick.
Nevertheless, the highly-rated Dominik Hofmann is also very rapid so it’s odd to think he’s only been picked up now. It’s going to be interesting to see the dynamic within the team, as both Opmeer and Bereznay are capable of fighting for the championship though Hofmann will also be racing at some point. But like team manager Jamie MacLaurin stated on the Pro Draft broadcast, it’s a good problem to have.
FDA Hublot: David Tonizza (ITA), Enzo Bonito (ITA) and Filip Prešnajder (SVK)
Now onto Ferrari’s Esports team, having joined the virtual racing party a year later than everyone else and drafting the eventual champion in David Tonizza. The teams championship however eluded them as Tonizza was the only one amongst the three Ferrari drivers to score points.
To fix that, Ferrari have now signed former McLaren driver Enzo Bonito, and together both Tonizza and Bonito have been doing the Pro Exhibition races, competing together in the SRO GT E-Sports Series and even shared a Ferrari GTE car with Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi in the Le Mans 24 Virtual.
As for their Pro Draft pick, Slovakian Filip Prešnajder was the one they went for after he impressed them with his speed in the play-off races on his gaming platform.
Red Bull: Frederik Rasmussen (DNK), Marcel Kiefer (GER) and Tino Naukarrinen (FIN)
The ever calm and cool character that is Frederik Rasmussen was third in 2018 and fell short of the championship last year, so it’s probably fair to say that the championship this year would be the most fitting result. He is joined by former Racing Point driver Marcel Kiefer, who won a race during the F1 Esports last year at Silverstone, and also won in the Pro Exhibition race around Interlagos.
Then we have Tino Naukarrinen, who was drafted after departing from Williams. All three drivers are proven quantities within the F1 Esports world and are very much capable of collecting very valuable points for Red Bull in their effort to retain the team’s championship.
What else is new?
After the outcry of the community to up the race length, the upcoming season will have races that are 35% distance of an F1 race (upwards of 25% from previous seasons) and will also have full knockout-style qualifying that will also be broadcast this year.
There will be four events with three races each so twelve races overall. Held on Wednesdays and Thursdays, the first event will take place on October 14-15 with races at the Bahrain, Vietnam and Chinese Grand Prix circuits.
The second batch of races will be on the Zandvoort, Montreal and Red Bull Ring circuits on November 4-5, followed by races at Silverstone, Spa and Monza on November 18-19. Then finally on December 9-10 will be Suzuka, Mexico City and São Paulo which will round off the fourth season.
You will be able to watch the F1 Esports drivers racing on F1’s official YouTube, Twitch and Facebook pages as well as your appropriate TV channels.
(Featured image courtesy of F1 2020 game by Codemasters)